Friday, April 17, 2015

Vote early and vote often.

It's been three years since I have even given a thought to the 'Wine Blog Awards'.  But just yesterday, the nice folks over at award HQ sent me an email with instructions on how to nominate wine bloggers for the 2015 awards.  There are seven categories that you can choose from to submit a blog for consideration; a sort of virtual pat on the back in recognition of the effort they put into educating, amusing, enlightening and, sometimes, infuriating we the readers.  And often for no financial compensation, not a penny.  So I did, I nominated four of my favourite blogs.
To me it is all just a bit of fun, but by nominating one blogger I just might make their day.  I know I felt pretty good the two different times I was nominated.  So nominate your favourite blog today.  Vote for me, if you have to.  But hurry, voting closes at midnight on the 22nd of April.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Making lemonade.

Yup, California is in desperate need of water as the past three winters have been particularly dry.  Television and radio news agencies are reporting, on a daily basis now, stories about how dire the water shortage is becoming, the need for water conservation and the new restrictions being enforced.  And the fines the average California homeowner will incur if they are caught wasting this precious resource, (neighbours are being encouraged to snitch on one another to the authorities).
The water situation is bad, but there have been worse droughts in California's history.  Of course, there are more people living in California than ever before and with population growth comes the need for more food to be produced.  California needs to eat.
Some little sound bites I have heard on the news include; Agriculture is said to be about 2% of the California economy, but uses some 80% of all the water; It takes one gallon of water to produce one almond; It takes three times as much water to grow one acre of alfalfa (and other forage crops) than it does to grow one acre of rice; California produces more rice than China; Alfalfa production in California is subsidised so that farmers can produce alfalfa cheaply to sell to China for cattle feed.  Now, I don't know how much of what is reported is factual, but stories like these give the average, thirsty California some food for thought.
The rain will come, eventually.  But in the meantime, when life gives you raisins, make Amarone.
Cartoon courtesy of the Napa Valley Register.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Keeping a clear head.

It is hard to tell from this photograph exactly what is going on in the head of this young Pinot grigio vine, it's all a bit of a mess - and that's the point.  The vines have gotten off to a great start for 2015, but that means an awful lot of adventitious buds have developed in places I didn't intend on them appearing.  Hate when that happens.  These adventitious buds, which generally form on older wood, are sometimes called non-count shoots.  Hmph, well they count for something because they generally mean a bit more extra work for me in the vineyard.  So that is what I did today, thinned out the heads of the Pinot grigio (and suckered the trunks).
One should generally start to perform shoot-thinning when shoots are about 4 inches long, waiting any longer means that the base of these extra shoots may have started to lignify making removal a little more difficult. Canopy management is very important, even at this early stage in the year, as it allows more sulphur (spray) to penetrate the canopy to safeguard against powdery mildew infection.  So a sunny, California Sunday afternoon was spent thinning and clearing out heads.  
Next up, the Syrah vines.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Napa Goats.

A neighbour has decided to plant vines in two former horse paddocks in front of her house.  The two plots had been ripped with a bulldozer last autumn and since then they have been left, over winter, to the machinations of the weeds. The wild oats, barley, mustard and wild radish were shoulder high this time last week, but that was before the goats arrived - about 50 of them. The weeds are now stubble.
Napa Goats is a business that rents out domestic goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) to folks in need of vegetation control.  I want to hire the goats to nibble away at the Himalayan blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) that are threatening to take over Vinoland.  I swear, along with cockroaches and Twinkies, blackberry plants would survive a nuclear apocalypse.  I need those goats.  However, Vinomaker is worried that the goats would escape into the vineyard.  But I'm thinking that if I did hire the goats and they somehow got loose in the vineyard Vinodog 2, with her Border Collie blood, would at long last be gainfully employed, like the Napa Goats.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Happy California Poppy Day, 2015.

The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)  was named in 1816 by naturalist Adelbert Von Chamisso, who upon sailing into San Francisco Bay found the surrounding California hills covered in golden flowers. Proclaimed the state flower in 1903 'California Poppy Day' is celebrated every April 6th, but I bet a lot of people don't know that.  
I'm going to be thinking nice flowery-thoughts all day as I wish as many people as possible,  Happy California Poppy Day!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter, 2015.

Eggs for breakfast!  Yup, got up this morning and the first thing I did was stuff a Cadbury Creme Egg into my mouth.  Then it started to rain, so I ate another two.  Lent seemed awfully long this year.
Happy Easter everyone.
Eat chocolate!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Easter Saturday viticulture.

Peeking down into this milk carton one can see a baby Pinot grigio vine doing what it does best, reaching up for the sun and growing.  Planted last season, this young vine is replacing a weak vine that just didn't make it; a rebirth of sorts, apropos of the season methinks.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Fiddling around.

Everywhere is so pretty right now, in part due to the fact that there are so many different plants happily blooming away.  And there is also new and healthy looking growth on trees, shrubs and, of course, grapevines.  I love spring, it's my favourite season.
I may have mentioned this before, but I just love wildflowers (and most weeds).  A current favourite wildflower of mine is the Intermediate Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesli var. intermedia) which is blooming, in quite dramatic fashion, over at the off leash dog park where I sometimes take Vinodog 2 for a bit of a treat (though she really doesn't like the car ride over there).  Situated on the west side  of the valley the dog park is surrounded by vineyards and  even though every single last vineyard in the valley has been mowed by now, on the dog park side of one particular vineyard there are lots of fiddlenecks growing unfettered.  I just love the deep, golden-yellow of the fiddleneck's little trumpet-shaped flowers (and the spiky stems and the fuzzy buds), the blooms are very conspicuous against a verdant expanse of wild barley.
Love, love spring.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hail me a cab.

No need, my cab is already here.
Budbreak in the Cabernet sauvignon vines is not particularly widespread, but it is taking place in the usual places; against a retaining wall, up on the top of a slope, in the more youthful vines.  The weather is fantastic, so the vines can't be blamed for getting a little bit of an early start this year. The Cabernet vines have a long way to go if they are trying to catch up with the Orange muscat vines though.  At around 26 inches in height already, the Orange muscat shoots are way out ahead.
Next up, trunk suckering and shoot thinning.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Miniature lupine.

Yet again I have discovered a new, blue wildflower in Vinoland.  Just when I thought I had made the acquaintance of all the blue-flowered wildflowers that happen to bloom on the more unkempt parts of the property, I found the diminutive miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor).  I literally tripped over this little flower, in an attempt not to tread on it, whilst I was admiring the Bowltube Iris which had flowered nearby earlier in the week.  When I steadied myself and looked around I saw a lot of miniature lupine with their slightly tropical looking palmate leaves, hairy buds and deep purple-blue sweet pea-like flowers.  So cute.
I am still waiting for the reappearance of one other blue wildflower which has been very elusive these past few springs.  I have a photograph of this mystery wildflower, but I want to make sure I see it again before posting about it.  Only then will I be satisfied that I have exhausted all the blue wildflowers in my little corner of wildflower-heaven.  But then again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fagiani's.

As is our tradition, Vinomaker and I like to surprise each other with a visit to a new restaurant on each other's birthday.  My surprise eatery this birthday was The Thomas at Fagiani's in downtown Napa.  I had been wanting to visit The Thomas for a while now as I had heard good things about it.
Fagiani's was originally a bar and liquor store that closed down in 1974 after a ghastly murder on the premises.  The building remained shuttereded until it was sold to the current proprietors some 37 years later.  The restaurant's name, the bar is still called Fagiani's, comes from the original establishment, (the building was built in 1909,  historic for Napa), which was a restaurant and a boarding house.  Interestingly, The Thomas was operated as a speakeasy during prohibition.  And that's about where my interest in The Thomas ends. 
Mediocre service, mediocre food, (except a special mention should go to the baked brussel sprouts which were instead carbonised), and a mediocre 'wine by the glass' wine list, overall The Thomas was a disappointing experience.  Hate when that happens.  
Vinomaker did manage to find a couple of wines that were quaffable; a Navarro Vineyards, 2012 Riesling (Anderson Valley AVA) and a Giornata, 2012 'Il Campo' - a Sangiovese blend (Central Coast AVA).  On a positive note, because there are so many great restaurants to choose from in the Napa Valley, I never have to eat at The Thomas again.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Bubbly-Birthday to me!

Started my birthday off in just the right way with pink bubbles, thanks to Vinomaker.  The bubbles paired nicely with some new pruning gloves and a new pair of Felco 6 secateurs.
Actually, rain woke me up which for me wasn't a particularly good way to wake up, but the day just keeps getting better.  Had a nice FaceTime chat with the family and a nice walk with Vinodog 2.  I have a few, fun things going on this afternoon and dinner tonight.  Fun!
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A spring in one's step.

It's the first full day of spring and the Syrah vines certainly do have a spring in their step.  No sooner than Vinomaker and I had finished tying down the Syrah canes last Saturday the buds started to push out.  Slow down little buddies!
The Cabernet sauvignon vines seem to be still snoozing,which is just fine with me, but that could change any day now.  Vintage 2015 is well underway.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's the first day of spring!

I know that today is the first day of spring because I checked that little factoid in my handy-dandy 2015 copy of Old Moore's Almanack.  I also happen to know that today is a good day to plant such things as asparagus, celery, brassicas, root vegetables and legumes, but only between the hours of 8.30 am to 12.55 pm, 1.20 to 2.40 pm and 3.05 to 4.10 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  Today is also a great day for me to go fishing (in the afternoon), and an even better day for me to bet on the dogs (if I just happen to be passing through Birmingham, England).  Good stuff.
Hang on a minute, didn't I just recently say that I had always wanted a copy of Old Moore's Almanack, but had never actually owned one?  Well, as of yesterday, via the US mail, I now have my very first copy of the annual publication, that I always wanted when I was little, thanks to my brother Thud.  Apparently, perhaps moved by my tale of woe, Thud decided he would rectify the decades old almanac-absence in his little sister's life.  Or perhaps he feels I need a bit of help in my current life, although it does say, in my personal daily guide (for Aries), that today my personal intuition and confidence should be strong enough for me to make successful decisions.  Cool, I should start by deciding whether to have salmon or prawns for dinner.
Of course, all these predictions and forecasts etc., are in GMT, so a little bit of mathematics will be required prior to me deciding whether or not I am going to plant, fish or gamble today.  Thanks, big brother!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

All in a row.

I don't know if these new Pinot grigio shoots are actually feeling particularly quarrelsome (the English language is great, isn' it?), but they are all lined up, and all equally as enthused.  Putting on 4 to 5 inches of growth in less than a week is only to be expected in mid 70° temps.  And I'm not going to argue with them, they know what they're doing.